What Are We Actually Scared Of? By Donna Abel

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It gives me great pleasure to welcome my colleague and first guest blogger Donna Abel, our Chief Human Resources Officer here at The Channel Islands Co-operative Society to my site. I hope you find Donna’s blog as pertinent and as touching as I do.

Best wishes, Colin

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A problem shared is often a problem halved, so they say! So, it’s heart-warming to see that we are more openly discussing mental health issues these days, especially in the workplace.

One in four of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lifetime. That could be me, you, a friend or one of your colleagues. Absolutely any one of us!

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel and act. It also determines how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices. And facts show us that:

  • One in six adults have a mental health problem at any one time
  • One in ten children aged between 5 and 16 years has a mental health problem, with many of those continuing into adulthood
  • Among people under 65, nearly half of all ill health is mental illness

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Can compassion help when approaching this subject?

Compassion is about showing your concern for those that may be experiencing difficulties around you. As a co-worker, a manager or a friend, do we see it as our role to help? Acts of compassion can be seen as acts of kindness, not massive acts just little things. Maybe asking a person how they are or simply lending an ear over a coffee can go a long way.

Shouldn’t HR deal with this in the workplace?

Sending a colleague off to see HR or the company doctor certainly ticks a box and shows a degree of empathy but, have we considered the additional distress and anxiety this could cause? Fear of talking to a stranger. Fear of showing vulnerability. Fear of being stigmatised. Does this course of action really get to the root of the problem or can it actually exacerbate it?

Line managers are ordinarily better positioned to show compassion and empathy. However, not all of us are confident enough to share, what we may deem as, our weaknesses with our superiors. But there’s always someone. Maybe it’s a work-friend or mentor, someone we trust, someone we may see daily to just put a metaphorical arm around our shoulder, to listen if we choose to talk.

But, many of us are scared of the consequences if we talk about our personal problems or our mental health. Will people act differently towards me? Will I lose respect? Will I lose my job? No, no and absolutely not!

On the other hand, we are equally scared of someone coming to us for help and feeling we’re not equipped with the right words. Should we back off and leave them to it? Ignore them? Bury our heads in the sand through fear? No, no and absolutely not!

Everyone is different when faced with emotional challenges and there isn’t a ‘one fix for all’ approach, nor should there be! We don’t know all the answers and we are not professionals in this field but, we can show our compassion. We can be kind, we can take the time to lend a non-judgmental ear and, we can be strong for each other when it most counts.

As we approach World Mental Health Day on the 10th October we need to remember that mental health can affect us all, and is a topic that should no longer be hidden or ignored. And, it’s certainly nothing to fear.

Talking, or simply listening, may be the first step that really makes a difference…

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